HAMPTON ROADS — “American Idol” Season 2 alum Kimberley Locke’s Christmas Is Here tour will stop in Hampton on Dec. 1.
Locke placed third in season two of the hit series behind Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard. During her time on the show, the Tennessee native was known for her vocal range and song choices.
However, her time on “American Idol” almost never came to be.
“When ‘American Idol’ came to Nashville, I had just graduated from college at Belmont University. I had been singing locally in Nashville for three years. I had stopped singing at that point and I was headed to law school. When my friends suggested that I audition, I said ‘Absolutely not, I’m not auditioning for this show, I’ve already changed my life plan, I’m going in a different direction with my life,'” Locke said.
On the morning of the audition, Locke decided at the last minute to go.
“I got up that morning and decided that I was going to audition. It was one of those things where I realized that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. If I didn’t make it through, I didn’t make it through. Once I made it through, I made it all the way to Hollywood Week,” Locke recalled.
Once she made it to the Hollywood Week portion of the competition, Locke arrived at another crossroads.
“Hollywood Week started the same exact day that I was supposed to start law school. I ended up withdrawing from law school, which physically made me sick, because I had not made it on the show at that point. I was taking a risk of going to LA and not making it onto the show,” Locke said.
Once she officially made it as a cast member on season two, Locke fondly remembers the pandemonium that erupted as the top 12 contestants tried to do anything normal young adults do.
“We all go to the mall and it was crazy mayhem. We walk in the mall and we had security guards. All of a sudden, a mob of people come running towards us. At this point, mall security has gotten involved, they are trying to split the group up so they can get us out of the mall. They start taking us out back doors, side doors, because people are just going bananas. We couldn’t even go to the mall,” she explains.
“Imagine being in your twenties and all you want to do is go to the mall and hang out with your friends, and you can’t. Not only could we not go to the mall, but we really couldn’t go anywhere. The show was just crazy. It was so popular, but for us contestants, we were just kids from Hampton, Virginia. We’re from small hometowns and all of a sudden, the world knows who we are. It’s a huge game-changer,” Locke added.
While the show became a massive phenomenon, Locke still remains grateful for what she learned as part of the cast.
“‘American Idol’ was a crazy fun time in my life. Nobody really knew how, even though it was the second season, big ‘American Idol’ was going to be. We were all, including the producers, the talent, the executive producers, everybody was learning as we went everyday. There was new information constantly, the show was getting bigger and bigger, people were going crazy over the show. We were all kind of evolving with the show on a daily basis. To say it was exciting was an understatement, it was just above and beyond anything we could have ever imagined,” Locke said.
One of her fondest memories on the show includes being inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. In 2003, Locke embarked on tour with the season two cast of ‘American Idol.’
Originally planning to move to New York after high school, Locke had the intention of becoming a Broadway star at the age of 18. When life took her to Nashville and to the set of ‘American Idol,’ she set that goal of Broadway aside. However in 2019, she realized her goal of being a Broadway actress when she was a special guest in Kristin Chenoweth’s Broadway show “Kristin Chenoweth: For the Girls.”
“The thing that I’ve learned is that you can’t plan for any of this stuff. You really don’t have a clue, you think you do, but you don’t. There’s so many things that came my way after ‘American Idol’ that I never considered, I was always constantly surprised by what I was doing and how my life was unfolding,” Locke said.
On Dec. 1, Locke will take to The American Theater stage. Discussing her approach to performing, she noted that she always loves to engage with her audience.
“The thing that I have said since the beginning with this show was that I wanted it to be fun. I want people to come, I want people to have fun, I want them to sing, if they want to dance, I want them to dance. This is a very upbeat and happy show. I want everyone to come and be ready to be a part of the show,” Locke said.
During the show, Locke will sing traditional holiday hits with her own classic twist. She currently has two Christmas albums on the market: “Christmas” debuted in 2007 and “Christmas is Here” debuted in 2021.
Locke’s stop in Hampton will be the first time she performs in Virginia.
“It’s special being able to watch one of your favorite American Idols perform live. You connected with them throughout the competition from your living room and then seeing them live in concert amplifies your experience and brings back fond memories,” said Hampton Arts Administration Manager Carena Novak.
For tickets, meet and greets, and more information on the Christmas is Here Tour, visit HamptonArts.org.